Articles | Volume 22, issue 6
14 Jun 2004
 | 14 Jun 2004

Analysis of the role of the planetary boundary layer schemes during a severe convective storm

J. S. P. Wisse and J. Vilà-Guerau de Arellano

Abstract. The role played by planetary boundary layer (PBL) in the development and evolution of a severe convective storm is studied by means of meso-scale modeling and surface and upper air observations. The severe convective precipitation event that occurred on 14 September 1999 in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula was simulated by means of the mesoscale model MM5 (version 3) using three different PBL schemes. The numerical results show a large impact of the PBL schemes on the precipitation fields associated to the convective storm. The schemes are based on different physical assumptions: the nonlocal first order Medium-Range Forecast (MRF) and Blackadar (BLA) scheme and the local, one-and-a-half order ETA scheme.

Surface and radar observations are used to validate the model results. The comparison focuses on three aspects: the evolution, the spatial distribution and the 24-h accumulated precipitation. The comparison with rain gauge observations shows that the MRF, BLA and ETA schemes predicted most of the precipitation during the morning, whereas the rain gauge stations recorded rainfall during the evening. The evaluation performed with the radar data shows that all three numerical simulations produced a realistic spatial accumulated precipitation distribution. According to the quantity distribution, all three numerical simulations were able to predict precipitation quantities comparable to the rain gauge measurements. The MRF scheme predicted the largest average accumulated precipitation and the largest average precipitation rate, whereas the ETA scheme predicted the smallest accumulated precipitation and average precipitation rate. However, the ETA scheme yielded the highest extreme precipitation rates.

The performance of the three schemes is analyzed in terms of the vertical distribution of potential temperature, specific humidity and conserved variables, like equivalent potential temperature and total water content. The MRF scheme showed more evidence of enhanced mixing than did the other schemes. Due to this process, more moisture was more efficiently transported to the free atmosphere. Consequently, the MRF scheme predicts more widespread precipitation. Furthermore, the enhanced mixing led to a less sharp capping inversion. However, the stronger inversion resulting from suppressed mixing processes in the case of the ETA scheme yielded higher values of convective available potential energy (CAPE) than did the other two schemes. Consequently, the more extreme precipitation rates are simulated by MM5 when the ETA scheme is used.